It feels like the great dancers of the distant past are shrouded in mystery, right? Partly that's because we only get limited glimpses of them: tiny video clips, blurry photos. And those peeks are always in shadowy black and white, creating even more distance between us and the living, breathing people these stars once were.
That's why Russian artist Olga Shirina's colorization project is so brilliant. Shirina, known as Klimbim online, has colorized (added realistic color to) many archival images, including photos of World War II heroes and members of Russia's imperial Romanov family. They're all pretty cool. But her series of colorized dance photos? It's FANTASTIC. Because it makes not only the dancers, but also the high-drama stage environments they inhabited, vibrantly real.
Left, original photo of Diana Adams in Antony Tudor's Pillar of Fire (1942); right, Shirina's colorized version. WHOA.
When she can, Shirina consults original design sketches, so that her edits reflect the actual coloring of the dancers' costumes. Here, for example, is Leon Bakst's sketch for ballerina Tamara Karsavina's costume for The Blue God (1912):
Here's the B&W image of Karsavina in the finished costume:
And here's Shirina's colorized version:
How awesome is that?
Check out a couple more of our favorite colorizations below. You can see the full collection on Shirina's site. (And this site has created slide-bar versions comparing the original photos with the edited versions, which is fun.)
Anna Pavlova in Russian costume, 1911
Vaslav Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose (1911, photo dated 1913)